For the petitioner-respondent, Albert N. Shahadi (Harry Miller, of counsel).
For the respondent-prosecutor, Samuel Levinson.
Before Justices Bodine, Heher and Wachenfeld.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
WACHENFELD, J. The questions presented for determination in this workmen's compensation case are whether there was "an accident," and if so, was there a causal relationship between that accident and the subsequent death. The Bureau dismissed the petition but on appeal the Common Pleas reversed the dismissal.
William E. Tyler, aged fifty-six, had been employed by the prosecutor for about twenty years as a laborer and maintenance man. During the last five to ten years of employment he was given lighter work tending motor controls at a pumping station. In addition to those duties, every month or so for a week or two at a time he was subject to emergency call after working hours, i.e., nights and Sundays, to locate and clear up sewerage pipe stoppages. This was done by a long, flexible wire weighing about six pounds which was inserted into the sewerage pipe by one man at the front end and revolved in a rotating manner by another man.
While on such emergency detail on October 7th, 1945, in the early forenoon he was summoned with another employee to clear a stoppage in the sewer line in Atlantic City. At the first two manholes Tyler took the position at the open end of the pipe and guided the wire through the pipe. At the third manhole he took the position at the back end of the wire and proceeded to rotate it, turning it "pretty fast." After doing that for about four or five minutes without the pipe stoppage having been contacted, the fellow employee heard the wire drop on the street and looking back he saw Tyler leaning against a fence nearby, complaining of a particular feeling which he had never had before. The fellow employee helped Tyler into the truck and drove him home. A physician was immediately summoned and two hours later Tyler died of a cerebral hemorrhage.
For about ten years past the decedent had been suffering from hypertension, having been treated over the period by several doctors, including the physician attending at his death.
The term "accident" as used in R.S. 34:15-7 is not restricted to traumatic forces but may include non-traumatic causes precipitating disability. George v. Edward M. Waldron, Inc., 111 N.J.L. 4 (sunstroke); Richter v. E.I. Du Pont De Nemours & Co., 118 Id. 404; affirmed, 119 Id. 427 (exposure to cold); Ciocca v. National Sugar Refining Company of New Jersey, 124 Id. 329 (heat prostration). Compensation can only be allowed where a definite event, apart from the resulting disability, can be fixed as the cause of the disability. Liondale Bleach Works v. Riker, 85 Id. 426;
Glick v. Wright Aeronautical Corp., 134 Id. 436; Butts v. General Motors Corp., 135 Id. 376.
Exertion or strain as constituting a compensable accident has received attention by the courts of this state, with varying results. Where during employment injury follows upon an unusual exertion or extraordinary effort, compensation is allowed. Bernstein Furniture Co. v. Kelly, 114 N.J.L. 500; affirmed, 115 Id. 500; Hentz v. Janssen Dairy Corp., 122 Id. 494; Molnar v. ...